I am not a huge fan of the retro labels they use on the St John's Road range. I understand the industry reverence for great old skool winemakers of the 1950s pictured here, but I don't see it pulling in the punters on a crowded bottle shop shelf. Good job, perhaps, that I'm a writer not a marketer. That said, this is an absolutely terrific Barossa GMS (Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz), a signature regional style that is ballsy but in balance. Full-flavoured and fruit-driven, this is a most amiable companion just about any barbecue selection. I scored it 93/100 and it is very good value at $22. It's made by Phil Lehmann, son of Peter Lehmann, one of those pictured on the label back in 1951. www.wdwines.com.au.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Party season is approaching; Christmas is not far away. That means I am going to be asked, repeatedly, to recommend an affordable sparkling wine that can do duty at work functions or family get-togethers. You might not have heard of the Yarran label but this bubbly from a family-owned and -operated winery at Yenda offers some affordable luxury here with citrusy, fresh and vibrant notes. It is made from 100% chardonnay grown in the Riverina region of New South Wales but picked early while it still had crunchy acid. Young and quite dry, this a real bargain that can be found online for $12 a bottle and would pair brilliantly with canapes or fresh oysters. Huon Hooke also liked it. $14. www.yarranwines.com.au.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
It used to be that all of Australia's finest rieslings came from either the Clare Valley, or perhaps the Eden Valley. Nowadays, you'll find excellent examples from Canberra, Tasmania and, perhaps most impressively, from the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Family-owned Howard Park was one of the regional pioneers here and produces exceptional dry rieslings from vineyards in both Mount Barker and the Porongurups. This wine has grown in stature since its first release seven years ago and pulls off the trick of being both delicate and full flavoured. Think floral aromas, elegant grapefruit and wild lime flavours, wet river pebble minerality and brisk acid. This is delightfully pure and lithe with the briskness, line and length of a great fast bowler. $34. www.burchfamilywines.com.au.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
"This is exquisite," said my wife, who has been known to enjoy a glass or two of bubbles in her time. I'd have to agree, having just made a note that this is an excellent choice for enjoying al fresco on these increasingly warm days. Rosé wines are all the rage right now and with the party season approaching it might pay to make a note of this dryish, fresh, crisp and clean Champagne with bright red fruit flavours. It is excellent with or without food. Champagne Duperrey comes from the family-owned Champagne house of G.H. Martel & Co, founded in 1869, and is named after French explorer Louis Isidore Duperrey. It's imported by Dan Murphy's and outshines several more expensive rosé bubblies.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Filius (son of in Latin) may be the entry-level chardonnay in the impressive Vasse Felix line-up but for immediate drinking pleasure, it is hard to beat. The first winery to be planted in Margaret River remains a national treasure with winemaker Virginia Willcock very much at the top of her game. This has vibrant but elegant fruit characters (think citrus and finger limes), and tight acid backbone. There is a certain willfulness here thanks to nine months of maturation in older oak and battonage treatment. The more expensive estate chardonnay and the flagship Heytesbury also shine from this vintage, but this is the one to enjoy right. $28. www.vassefelix.com.au.
Friday, October 13, 2017
I was all set to review the very impressive Elderton 2015 Shiraz when I came across this cabernet in a different tasting bracket a couple of days later. If you enjoy bold but brilliantly balanced cabernets then you won't want to miss this. Estate-grown and made, it is full-bodied but 47% of higher-altitude Eden Valley fruit married to Nuriootpa and Greenock grapes ensures it also has some impressive elegance. Second- and third-year larger format French oak add palate interest and structure without overwhelming the quality fruit. Think briary blackcurrants, plums, cassis, dark chocolate and brisk tannins. This is delicious right now and will cellar for a decade or two. Pair this with a roast lamb en croute, or perhaps a rabbit casserole. $34. www.eldertonwines.com.au.
Friday, October 6, 2017
If anyone was in need of a reminder just how refreshing young sauvignon blanc can be, this new-release from outstanding Orange region winery Angullong comes in to land an impressive left-right combination of freshness and natural acidity. It is an excellent example of unoaked cool-climate sauvignon, with a vibrant floral nose and a melange of citrus and stone fruit flavours on the palate. There is plenty of length and a crisp, bone dry finish. Excellent drinking chilled on a warm afternoon and an amiable companion for seafood and shellfish. I'll give this one 92/100. $20. www.angullong.com.au.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
During the week I had the good fortune to meet with some of the members of the Schild family - and to sample several of their remarkable Moorroooo shirazes, icons that contain fruit from vines that are 170 years old. But the Schild family also makes some cracking, and more affordable, wines like this super-impressive blend of three red grape varieties from the Rhone that thrive in the southern Barossa Valley: grenache (52%), mataro (24% )and shiraz (24%). What I like most about this is its sheer drinkablility. It is a wine with personality but doesn't demand too much attention; it just slips down nice and easy. Look out for vibrant ripe red fruit flavours, softness on the palate and a solid tannin backbone, along with some white pepper spice notes. Match this with a gourmet cheeseburger or perhaps a spring backyard barbecue. $18. www.schildestate.com.au.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
This is one of those wines with what we describe at home as "an evaporation problem". A couple of us started sipping on this and it wasn't long before the bottle was completely empty. Mysterious. If you weren't paying attention you could easily mistake this for a Macon Villages. Close-planted Dijon clones have produced plenty of flavour and the quality fruit has sucked up new and seasoned French oak that adds structure but imparts minimal flavour. Think bright citrus flavours, white peach, nectarine, racy acidity and flinty minerality. Downright delicious. A luxury Adelaide Hills wine without the luxury price tag. $39.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Warmer days are on their way and I can't think of many better wines for enjoying al fresco over summer. Made from a Portuguese grape that plays a key role in the fortified wines of Madeira, this is a fresh and vibrant dry white youngster full of the joys of spring. There are floral and fruit salad aromas on the nose, leading to fresh, zingy palate with tropical fruit notes and zingy acid. Serve this well chilled with maybe a paella, some chorizo or char-grilled squid or oysters. Uncomplicated but affordable and downright delicious. $20. www.sandalford.com.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Another cracking bargain from the massive d'Arenberg range, this offers quality McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon for under $20. Made in the old style using some fruit from vineyards first planted in the 19the century; some portions go through pigeage (foot stomping) and a basket press. This is matured in older American oak for 20 months and the palate resonates with dark berry and black chocolate notes, allied to well-integrated oak. It's big, it's bold, but it's also in balance. I've seen this on special for $16 - which is a gift. Well worth snapping up a case, even at the RRP of $18. www.darenberg.com.au.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
There are some very high-quality wines at extremely reasonable prices coming out of Blue Pyrenees Estate - kudos to winemaker Andrew Koerner. I particularly enjoyed this wine because of its balance - it is a red (99% cabernet, 1% merlot) that reflects its Western Victorian heritage: it's medium-bodied, well structured and has plenty of palate interest. Dark berry fruit flavours align with well-integrated cedary oak for a wine of grace and structure that will cellar well for a decade or more. Pair this with to a late winter casserole; maybe an osso bucco or mushroom fricassée. $26. www.bluepyrenees.com.au.
Friday, August 11, 2017
How cool is this? Minimalist, edgy, fresh, non-conformist and dangerously drinkable. The hipsters will love this brand-new field blend from Massena Vineyards in the Barossa Valley, one of the Artisans of the Barossa collective. But so do old beardies like myself. Winemaker Jaysen (such a trendy name) Collins has a very different take on winemaking, saying he "makes spontaneous decisions how to make the wine.” Around a dozen different grape varieties from the Eden Valley go into this blend; including muscat, riesling and other whites, along with red varieties including grenache and mataro. Some of the fruit is from old vines and it sees a short amount of skin contact to lift the funk levels up a few degrees. Think sweet and sour notes, muscaty and citrus flavours, brisk acid and impressive refreshment. $30. www.massena.com.au.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
This is one of Australia's best quaffing reds, but keeps a pretty low profile in comparison to some of its shoutier rivals. It's under cork, which to me makes no sense for a bottle priced as a picnic/barbecue wine, but you certainly can't argue about the quality of what is in the bottle. This is a traditional blend of grenache, shiraz and mataro from the Barossa that stars on a regular basis. The fruit comes from proven vineyards (replanted with grenache and mataro in the 1990s after the ill-advised 1970s vine pull). Bright, plummy and spicy, this is chockful of savoury goodness and downright drinkability. $20. www.rusdenwines.com.au.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Balance is the key to great wine, and this is a Bendigo red of impeccable harmony. There are the dark fruit flavours you'd expect from a shiraz, impressive structure, and oak that plays an astute but not intrusive support role. It carries its 14.6% alcohol lightly. This a wine that is the antithesis of the "bigger is better" style of Australian shiraz, more Mumford and Sons than Eminem. There's warmth and flavour, sure, but there is also a persistent finish with firm acid structure. This would be a most amiable companion for a traditional roast lamb dish or a hearty ratatouille. Top value for $34. www.passingclouds.com.au.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
De Bortoli Yarra Valley winemaker Steve Webber's love of pale and savoury rosé wines was prompted by a family holiday to the south of France, where he and wife Leanne de Bortoli engaged with the benchmark rosé wines of Bandol. Now de Bortoli are among the Australian leaders when it comes to the style, and this wine made from Heathcote grenache fruit has been given a subtle label makeover for the new vintage. It is salmon pink in colour with wild strawberry and herb garden aromas leading to a cherry briskness on the palate. Barrel fermentation has added texture but this is primarily a fun, fresh wine that will come into its own as the days grow longer and warmer. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians. $20. www.debortoli.com.
Monday, July 17, 2017
I've been very impressed with the wines from Taylor's recently. From the entry level Promised Land wines to premium offerings like this one, there is a definite line of quality. There are some that immediately strike a chord; and this is one of them, a delightfully put-together cabernet sauvignon crafted from Clare Valley vines that were first planted in 1892 on terra rossa soils over limestone. This is a wine that combines power and complexity; with flavour profiles ranging from cassis to dark olives. A wine of structure and refinement. $70. www.taylorswines.com.au.
Monday, July 10, 2017
One of the standouts in an impressive new range from McWilliam's, this is a stylish new wave cool-climate chardonnay made from fruit grown at high-altitude at Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales. It is crisp, clean and very refreshing with an impressive amalgam of stone fruit, citrus, mineral and nutty characteristics that reflect the fact the grapes were grown at an average of 660 metres above sea level. There is plenty of zippy, refreshing acidity on the finish here as well, making for some darn fine drinking. Pair this with an old-style roast pork dish. $25. www.mcwilliams.com.au.
Monday, July 3, 2017
This is a quintessentially Australian red wine; bold and full of flavour; ready to enjoy right away with meaty dishes or hard cheeses but capable of being cellared for a few years. I marked it down as being much more expensive than it actually is; making it a very good option for the price. Made from shiraz grapes sourced from the southern end of McLaren Vale, it is forward, fruit-driven, soft and smooth. Older oak plays a laid-back but solid support role but it is the dark, supple fruit that leads the way. Very gluggable. $15. www.mitolowines.com.au.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
The Riverina Winemakers' Association recently got in touch with wine writers to highlight the significant number of local producers who are succeeding with wines made from alternative grape varieties. From Saint Macaire to Lagrein, local producers are pushing the boundaries. This lovely wine from talented young winemaker Sam Brewer at Yarran Wines particularly caught my fancy. Petit Verdot is a Bordeaux variety often used in blends but performs well in the warmer local climate. Dark and structured with plenty of palate interest. Also look out for the Warburn Estate 1164 2014 Montepulciano and the McWilliam's Family Winemakers 1913 Touriga 2016, both of which also impressed. The Yarran wine is $24. www.yarranwines.com.au.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Looking for a red wine with a little bit of style and class that won't break the bank? This little number from Barossa winery Thorn-Clarke will do the business - and leave you with some change from a $20 note. Estate-grown fruit offers up varietal blackcurrant and dark chocolate notes with some well-integrated oak. With some plum and spice notes bringing support, along with some suppleness and length, this was a particular favourite with my wife, who preferred it to several more expensive Barossa offerings because of its astutely judged balance. Very nice indeed. $18. www.thornclarkewines.com.
Monday, May 29, 2017
Single-vineyard, or single-site chardonnays are all the rage right now, but two of Australia's benchmark chardonnays are blends of fruit from multiple regions. As is the case with Penfolds Yattarna, the Eileen Hardy draws on fruit from Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba in New South Wales. The blend, which changes from year to year, worked a treat in the excellent 2015 vintage, producing a wine of both style and substance. There are ripe stonefruit characters, lean minerality, citrus crispness and cleverly judged oak. Named as a tribute to the family matriarch, this will probably cellar for well over a decade. An icon that merits 95/100. $95. www.hardyswines.com.
Monday, May 22, 2017
What's old is new again.Yelland and Papps' Second Take label is designed for wines that reflect Old World winemaking techniques rather than those of modern Australia, where cleanliness is next to Godliness. That means a bit of funk; a few rough edges; a bit of individuality. This is made from old vine grenache, a proven performer in the Barossa, with 61% whole bunch, 17 days on skins and wild barrel fermentation. The end result is fresh and youthful with bright red fruits to the fore. Unfiltered, unfined and vegan-friendly, this is a little bit punk, but more The Clash than the Sex Pistols. Not to everyone's taste, but well worth trying.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Global citizen Martin Krajewski is a man with his finger in many wine pies - and with a keen palate to boot. Krajewski, you may remember, worked in partnership with John Duval on an Australian range called Songlines. He recently sold his Chateau de Sours in Bordeaux to multi-millionaire Jack Ma but still owns Clos Cantenac in St Emilion as a well as a share of a new South African venture. This is his "second label" and an outstanding example of new wave Bordeaux. Imported by Robert Oatley Wines, this is a classic right bank blend of merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon that is singing sweetly at this stage of its evolution. Plump and juicy, long and soft with ripe tobacco hints, supple and plush with New World influences, this is excellent drinking and a good intro to affordable Bordeaux. $55. www.closcantenac.com.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
The Ten Minutes by Tractor range from the Mornington Peninsula always offers a choice of some of Australia's finest single-vineyard chardonnays; wines of style and substance that offer extreme drinking pleasure over both the short and medium term. The 2015 wines are no exception and while the Wallis vineyard wine is generally my favourite on this occasion it is pipped by the sublime Judd, a brilliantly poised wine with the flavours and complexity to match its composure. The Judd vines are now well over 20 years of age and delivering quality fruit. From a terrific vintage, this was hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed and naturally fermented in new and old French barrels. A style benchmark; but you shouldn't wait around too long before buying. $68. www.tenmimutesbytractor.com.au.
Friday, April 21, 2017
You don't get much for $10 in your local bottle shop nowadays, but this is a very welcome exception to that rule; a crisp, fresh and food-friendly riesling from the McGuigan family that is one of the best wine bargains to be found right now. The viticultural and winemaking teams have done a great job in turning fruit from broadacre vineyards in the Murray Darling and Riverland regions into a very attractive dry white that offers crisp textures, sweet tangerine/mandarine flavours and just the merest hint of attractive bitterness. Lovely with Asian dishes and exclusive to Dan Murphy's stores.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Take a look at supermarket shelves in England or the US and you'll find an increasing number of high quality, but affordable, red wines from both Chile and Argentina. Wines like this one are fast taking over the former role of Australia at the lower price points; producing flavoursome, uncomplicated value for money. This is one of a range of well-priced wines from Casillero del Diablo, the Chilean offshoot of the massive Spanish wine conglomerate Concha Y Toro. It is soft and smooth, a great barbecue wine, and can be found at Dan Murphy's stores for a silly $13.99. A warning shot local producers should heed.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
This week marks the 10th birthday of Larry Cherubino Wines as a stand-alone entity. If you are not familiar with the name you should be. Cherubino produces several ranges of wines at various price points that share two things in common: extreme quality and outstanding value. It was hard to choose which of several Cherubino wines to feature here; the 2015 The Yard Shiraz from the same Frankland River vineyard is also a standout, as is the Cherubino 2015 Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc. Cherubino has access to some of the finest fruit across Western Australia and makes the best possible use of it. This is an absolutely outstanding dry riesling that has great purity and a most appealing nose. Citrus flavours lead the charge here with rapier-like acidity, limestone minerality and gentle hints of Asian herbs. Simply delicious right now. Try pairing it with some fresh salmon.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
A new small-batch release from Ben Glaetzer and his talented Heartland team who hope that long-time underachiever malbec is about to strike a chord with Australian drinkers. Wines from Cahors and Argentina have enjoyed some success here, but very few home-grown malbecs have enjoyed sales success. This is 100% malbec from Langhorne Creek, made in a style midway between Cahors and Mendoza, using only new oak. It is inky and black (think vibrant fresh blackberries plucked from a hedgerow), but softer than a baby's bottom on the palate. It is on the bigger side of the spectrum at 14.5% alcohol and would be seen to best advantage paired with roasted red meats; a hearty steak or some lamb chops, perhaps.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
One of Australia's wine icons and the new-release 2015 is strikingly consistent in terms of both style and quality. There is a purity here that is characteristic of Kevin John releases and despite the use of 73% new oak, Vanya Cullen has conjured up a chardonnay of elegance and refinement. Certified biodynamic and carbon neutral, this estate wine was harvested on fruit and flower days from 39-year-old vines - some of the oldest in Margaret River. Grapes were whole-bunch pressed and fermented with wild yeast in barriques prior to five months of oak maturation that have added intensity and complexity. Think grapefruit and ripe pear characters, nutty oak nuances and delightful balance. This is composed and contemplative; a wine that's happy in its skin and merits 96 points. You'd have to buy at least two bottles of this. One for now and one for enjoyment in 10 years time. $110. www.cullenwines.com.au.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
There are a couple of things that I love about the Hither & Yon range. There's the cleverly colour-coded labels, which are fun and informative; and the sheer reliability of quality produced by the Leask family from McLaren Vale. I've recently sampled shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and this wine from the same stable, and all offered excellent value and lovely balance. Nero d'Avola is a Sicilian grape that has migrated happily to warmer parts of Australia and, in this incarnation, it is fruit driven, flavoursome and extremely pretty. An engaging all-purpose red with some herbal notes that would pair well with pizza, pasta or a good book. $30. www.hitherandyon.com.au.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
There is something pretty special about this wine, which shines vintage after vintage. It is made very much in the style of Chablis; fruit forward, lean and chalky. This is a blend of chardonnay from Kooyong's Tuerong and Balnarring vineyards. Only 10% new oak is used but after fermentation the wine is aged on lees for 10 months, adding concentration. There is no fining and minimal filtration, letting the quality fruit speak for itself. Crisp and clean, this has citrus aromas, grapefruit and lemon zest on the palate with a mineral tang. A wine of quality, charm and balance. I'll give this 93/100. $32. www.kooyongwines.com.au.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Here’s a very good McLaren Vale shiraz that will appeal to those with green tendencies. The PF Shiraz is made from grapes grown on a certified biodynamic single-estate vineyard, farmed without herbicides, fungicides or synthetic chemicals and made without additions of any kind, including preservatives, acid, tannin or finings. It is a bright and juicy young red, full of intense shiraz flavour and is best enjoyed in its vivacious youth. $25. www.yangarra.com.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Interest in wines from both Spain and Portugal is growing in Australia, where there is increased appeal in their subtle and savoury flavours and alcohol levels that are often lower than equivalent Australian reds. From the newer vineyards of Castilla and Leon region in northern Spain (not traditional heartland Rioja) and made by one of Spain's most highly-rated wineries, this is a very good introduction to the wines of the Iberian peninsula. It is dark and inky with tempranillo blended with small portions of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. There are black fruits with hints of dark chocolate and smoky oak, but the focus is one quality fruit. This is bottled under screw cap for the Australian market and can be found at Dan Murphy's stores. $16.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Wild Rock is the entry level range of esteemed New Zealand producer Craggy Range and this is one of the new releases under the new-look branding. The pinot gris has dropped "sur lie" from the label and is presented in a more fruit focused style. I liked it a lot for its everyday drinking appeal. It is a pale, but intense Marlborough wine with delightful floral aromas and stone fruit flavours. There is some honeyed fruit sweetness but it finishes dry and should have widespread appeal. This would match well with Asian cuisines. One that would benefit from immediate enjoyment. $18. www.wildrockwine.co.nz.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
I first came across Kevin Bell and Tricia Byrnes a decade and a half ago when they were trying to find a retail outlet in Sydney to sell their wines. I was blown away with the quality they were producing as part-timers (Kevin is a Supreme Court judge and his wife a lawyer), and was, fortunately, able to assist. Their wines have only improved since then, and the Hurley pinots are among the finest on the Mornington Peninsula. This is a few months down the track from release and looks spectacular, with everything you'd want in a high-quality pinot. It looks, to use a cliche, distinctly Burgundian, with a bright red fruit bouquet, and an impressive balance between fruit, savoury/sous bois notes and quality oak. Superb - and cellar worthy. I'm edging towards 97/100. $85. www.hurleyvineyard.com.au.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
As the rosé revolution grows and grows, this is one of the styles that is proving most popular; dry, savoury and cheeky in the European mould. This one from Sam Scott in the Adelaide Hills is made from the Italian grape variety aglianico, which originated in Greece but is now popular in southern parts of Italy. This is a delightfully poised rosé, perfect for pairing with picnics or Middle Eastern cuisine. It's vivacious and cheeky; desperately drinkable with some interesting textures. The kind of wine you'd like to take to a party. $25.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
I really couldn't care less what the bearded hipster habitues of oh so funky inner-city wine bars have to say. They can keep their 100% full-bunch wines from the slopes of Mt Etna that have been matured in amphorae. On a hot summer day in Australia, with the sun beating down, a lot of wine drinkers want refreshment, flavour and some crisp acid. This new-release sauvignon blanc from Taylors, which sources fruit from the Adelaide Hills, delivers drinkability in spades - but it won''t be getting too many sommelier recommendations. It is fruity, zesty and fun - everything you'd want in a young sub-$20 white. Chill it, get it in ya. $19. www.taylorswines.com.au.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Family-owned and -operated Shingleback in McLaren Vale produces a wide range of mainly red wines, including several that are sold exclusively in various supermarket chains. This is one of those; a very drinkable young shiraz at a price that is particularly attractive when cash is tight at this time of the year. Winemaker John Davey, a former JImmy Watson Trophy winner, has hit the bullseye with this richly flavoured wine with well-balanced oak. It's young, vibrant and an excellent barbecue or midweek choice; powerful but not overwhelming. You won't find too many better quaffing reds for $15. Exclusive to Vintage Cellars. www.shingleback.com.au.